Laowai favourite, the Onion-esque China Daily Show has made the big time with a profile in the New York Times/International Herald Tribune, along with an interview with the site’s illusive creator, “Mr. R”.
Traditionally, authoritarian states resent satire – laughter is powerfully subversive – and China is no exception, carefully controlling critical chuckles in the media with a wide range of technological tools including tens of thousands of online censors who can, and do, wipe satirical Chinese-language jokes, comments or videos within minutes.
That leaves a true gap in the market for “fake news” in English, which the government may care about less since far fewer people can read it. And about two years ago Mr. R. stepped up.
In two interviews, Mr. R., who works in the media, last lived in London and says he is an admirer of the British satirical publication Private Eye, said he was inspired to do it by “affection for China, as much as anything else,” adding: “People unfamiliar with the country can realize that, however strange it might sometimes seem, China is a place like any other. It, too, can be explained and seen for what it is. You can’t really have satire without understanding.”
Q: What inspired you to start doing this?
A: It’s one way to express thoughts that couldn’t be properly articulated anywhere else. When you like a place, you want to see it get better. But many of the engines of social improvement, like a free press or independent judiciary, simply don’t exist here. Instead, China retains a feudal culture of deference towards officials or bosses, however incompetent. People are waiting for someone to point out that their emperors have no clothes – and I’m more than happy to be that person.